Throughout this blog our team of brothers reach out to their
fellow spiritual leaders aiding them in their time of need.

 

Brothers In Arms Blog

BROTHERS \ noun plural: men who share a parent in common
IN \ preposition: used as function word to indicate purpose
ARMS \ noun: weapons\verb: to furnish with weapons

FRIENDS WITH WEAPONS

 

Self Discovery

I was born with the gift of a desire for excellence. Picture me at age six crying because of pressure felt to rush through assignments I wasn’t allowed to complete. At least not the way I thought I should. As a teenager involved in 4H, spending hours meticulously grooming my animal so that it was presented at its very best to the judge. Spending even more time studying for a showmanship class to be sure that I was prepared to answer any question asked of me. In my twenties, as a surgical technician, I could be found taking painstaking notes, on my breaks, so that I could efficiently set up my table for any possible surgery. I aspired to hand the doctors what they needed before they even asked for it.

Some things however don’t earn you an A+, a blue ribbon, or the respect of a surgeon. Marriage … Parenting. For years I struggled with the lie that nothing I did was good enough in these roles. No striving ever amounted to “excellent mother” or “excellent wife”. Depression and hopelessness soon took up house in my “unexcellent” life. I felt as if I had an incurable disease called “perfectionism”. I made some poor choices from that joy-less place. What did it matter? My efforts were never enough. Then, in God’s mercy, he enrolled me in His school of grace. He led me into a community of hope, of understanding, of love and acceptance. I was reminded that no matter what, no matter the striving, no matter the result, I have value. I am loved, without condition — agape love. By His grace I see the truth in the statement, “The devil knows your name, but calls you by your sin (or your weakness). God knows your sin, but calls you by your name.”

By His grace I am learning to embrace who I am, Jeanne, beloved daughter of my loving Creator. I am made uniquely — purposefully. I am made to strive for excellence, and I get to freely — with joy, without fear of failure for an audience of One, who will always be proud. Who already has a crown awaiting me.

“I am learning so much. Learning the truth in His grace is one revelation contributing to my transformation.” Jeanne Dietz, Guest Blogger

Jeanne is married and mother of two. She and her family are currently attending the YWAM Discipleship Training School in Chico, California. YWAM is a Christian missionary organization that seeks to empower others to know God and make Him known. Jeanne sees this chapter of her life as a time to get grounded in who God is and who He created her to be. Soon she will spend two months overseas serving in a variety of ministries such as caring for the homeless, ministering in refugee camps, and encouraging unity of the body between Catholics and Protestants.

 

Categories: Battling Brides, Sound Familiar? Comments: 0

Moving Forward

by C. Harmon

Jacob lived true to the meaning of his name: “deceiver.” He tricked his aged father, Isaac, into giving him the blessing that belonged to his older brother, Esau. Under Esau’s threat of murder, Jacob fled far from his father’s home. For the next twenty years he lived a frustrating life with his Uncle Laban. Jacob was now a victim himself of his uncle’s deceit. But for the love of one of Laban’s daughters, Jacob worked for him fourteen years. He stayed on another six years, establishing his own family and wealth, though sometimes still by conniving means. (Read the story of Jacob in Genesis chapters 25, 27–35.)

Finally, God told Jacob to return to his relatives back in Canaan, promising His presence and kindness. Jacob gathered his wives, children, servants, and flocks, and began the long trip home. Toward the end of their journey, at night and alone, Jacob was attacked by a man. The two wrestled all night. Jacob discovered that the man was none other than God, Himself, in human form, for He supernaturally put Jacob’s hip out of joint just by touching it. This was the turning point—Jacob realized it was useless to struggle against Almighty God. Instead, he became bold in faith, pleading for His blessing.

The Man answered Jacob’s request by asking something He already knew—his name. By stating his name, Jacob both revealed and confessed his nature as a deceiver and yielded in reverence to Him. This was the radical life change Jacob needed to become the father of a great nation. The Man declared that his name would now be Israel, which means “God fights.” Because of the patriarch’s stubbornness and pride, God had chosen to fight against him. In love and mercy, God had met Jacob face to face without destroying him, and Jacob recognized this (Genesis 32:30). Now God would fight for Israel, the person and the nation, and would overcome their enemies as long as they honored and obeyed Him.

Like Jacob, we need to recognize that our self-sufficiency, pride, and other destructive traits are incompatible with the work of God. God wants our total allegiance, and just as He chose Jacob, He lovingly chooses to use us in His work.

The apostle Paul declared, “We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9b, 10).  Do those we live and work with see our love for people because of our God? Do they witness our joy in knowing Him? What we say about our Lord will have little impact if we don’t show a caring spirit. And people admire Christians who display joy, especially through difficulties.

In his book, Just Like Jesus, Max Lucado asks, “Wouldn’t you love to look back on your life and know you had done what you were called to do?” 1 The author suggests that “by  answering four simple questions, we can be more like Jesus; we can stay on course with our lives.” 2 Here are the questions:

1) Am I fitting into God’s plan?

The author is referring to God’s ultimate plan—salvation for all mankind. He states
“. . . you are intended to contribute to the good plan of God, to tell others about the God who loves them and longs to bring them home.” 3

2) What are my longings?

Mr. Lucado explains: “When we submit to God’s plans, we can trust our desires. Our assignment is found at the intersection of God’s plan and our pleasures. What do you love to do? What brings you joy? What gives you a sense of satisfaction?” He adds that we should consider our skills along with our desires, thus moving us on to the third question.

3) What are my abilities?

Max urges, “Identify your strengths, and then—this is important—major in them . . . Failing to focus on our strengths may prevent us from accomplishing the unique tasks God has called us to do.” 5

4) Am I serving God now?

The author suggests we should do what Jesus did—He served God at home through loving and helping His family, and then also sacrificially served others in His ministry. We imitate Jesus when we willingly serve others with a loving attitude. 6

These four questions form an acrostic: the first letter of the last word of each spells PLAN. Mr. Lucado adds, “God allows you to start fresh at any point in life . . .
Regardless of what has controlled you in the past, it’s never too late to get your life on course and be part of God’s P.L.A.N.” 7

It’s time to stand out as followers of Christ. To put Him first in our finances, activities, relationships, in every area of our lives. To determine what He is calling us to do with our lives now. To find our joy and strength in Jesus, not in people or accomplishments. To make needed changes in our lives with God’s help.

When have we been most on fire for the Lord?

What do we need to fuel that fire again?

Let’s not wait for God to give us new names. Let’s choose to burn brighter now!


1 Max Lucado, Just Like Jesus, Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 1998), 92.
2 Ibid, p. 94.
3 Ibid, p. 95.
4 Ibid, p. 95.
5 Ibid, pp. 96, 97.
6 Ibid, pp. 97, 98.
7 Ibid, p. 99.

 


The following are samples of available materials for helping believers share Jesus and the gift of salvation with others:

ReIgnite, an online course with videos, worksheets, and Bible-based studies. From the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  ReIgnite will encourage you to reignite your passion for evangelism and will train you to share Jesus with others.

People Sharing Jesus: A Natural, Sensitive Approach to Helping Others Know Christ, by Darrell W. Robinson. This is a book that includes inspiring stories and reality-based techniques on sharing Jesus with others.

I Am Second “is a movement meant to inspire people of all kinds to live for God and for others. . . . it is designed to help people discover their purpose in life.”  Includes videos/films, questions to guide discussion, available online chat and blog, e-mail, phone contact.

More from Max Lucado is available at www.maxlucado.com.

 

Categories: Day Six, Fodder For Sheep Comments: 0

Contentment

by C. Harmon

 

How do you describe contentment?

Are you content on a day-to-day basis?

Recently on TV, I watched a couple search for a smaller house. Their goals: to reduce their housing expenses and maintenance; to lower their stress and spend more time with their two young children; and to find an extra sturdy house that could withstand hurricanes.

The couple chose a former large, green metal-covered shipping container (the approximate size of a railroad boxcar). Its conversion included a swing-out panel covering a door on one end and a wide pull-down deck, sliding glass door and windows on one side. When closed, this house could stand its ground against hurricane winds. Inside, a large wooden unit housed drawers, shelves, a pull-out bed at the bottom, and a wide sleeping area at the top. A tiny kitchen, small bathroom, and a little seating space completed this house of about 200 square feet.

The parents’ positive attitudes spilled over to their children. Scenes showed the kids happily playing in their sleeping loft, mom cooking on the two-burner stove and washing dishes in the large bathroom sink (the only sink in the house), and the kids eating at a table on the deck. The parents were sleeping better and enjoying their children during evenings and weekends. The dad’s closing remark was something like, “At the end of the day, it isn’t the things you have that matter; it’s family time and good relationships.”  The family reflected contentment.

This story struck me because I cannot imagine being content in that small living space. Like most Americans, I’m used to more and want more. So many of us have an abundance compared to most people in other parts of the world and those Americans who are out of work or living in poverty. Yet, are we content?

The apostle Paul, writing from a prison cell in Rome, stated, “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” Philippians 4:11-13. *

Paul said that he learned how to be content. How did he learn this? Before dramatically meeting Christ on the road to Damascus, Paul was a highly educated Pharisee who no doubt dressed and ate well and lived in a comfortable house. But he was not content without searching for Christians to persecute and bring before the Jewish authorities.

It was many years later, as a persecuted Christian himself, that he could make such an amazing declaration of contentment. During those years, Paul experienced all kinds of hardships—shipwrecks, stonings and beatings; hunger, thirst, and shaking cold; desertion by so-called friends; and strong criticism from fellow Jews.

How did the apostle react to all these hardships? Did he ask, “Why me, Lord?” Did he seek revenge on his persecutors?

On Paul’s first missionary journey, in Lystra the crowd decided he was a god until some angry Jews from other towns came and convinced the people that Paul should be killed. The mob then stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, leaving what they thought was his dead body. But as the few believers gathered around him, Paul regained consciousness, and no doubt with some help, walked back into town Acts 14: 19-20. Surely he had a concussion, massive bruises, and some broken bones.

As he lay in pain that night, did he question God’s call? When the crowd could so easily be turned against him, did Paul wonder if he was in the place of God’s choosing? The very next day God gave him strength to travel with Barnabas to the town of Derbe, most likely on the back of a donkey. I imagine Paul rested and at least began to heal while in Derbe. Yet the apostle, perhaps still battered, preached the Good News with Barnabas there, making many disciples. And then the pair bravely returned to Lystra and other nearby towns to strengthen the believers, reminding them that they must suffer many hardships. Do we tend to forget this—that we will at times be criticized, perhaps even persecuted, if we stand up for our faith in Jesus? Do we even live in such a way that others know we are believers in Jesus Christ?

Paul was given a presumed physical ailment which he called a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment him and keep him from becoming proud 2 Corinthians 12:7. The apostle, human like the rest of us, asked God three times to remove his thorn. But God replied each time, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 Paul chose to accept his weakness and allow the power of Christ to work through him. By the time he wrote the letter to the Philippians, he had learned to be content anywhere, including the dank, dark underground cell in Rome from where he wrote.

What if Paul had spent the rest of his life mired in guilt and shame over the many times he persecuted Christians or condoned executions? What if he had taken offense at ridicule and hurled insults back? Or what if he had sunk into self-pity and despair over frequent rejection of his message and persecution? The New Testament would be short by at least thirteen books, and an immense amount of wisdom, exhortation, and inspiration would be missing from the Bible.

In her book, Fear Not Tomorrow, God Is Already There, Ruth Graham, daughter of evangelist Billy Graham, wrote how God works best in our weakness and insufficiency. She said that although we would like to think we can control our tomorrow, most of us have discovered that we can do what’s right yet still see things go wrong. “Coming up against our own powerlessness can scare us,” she wrote, but “we don’t need to fear our insufficiency. Our weakness is the very environment in which God’s power thrives. Encountering our own weakness is what sets the stage for us to encounter God’s power!” She explained that when we are willing to be ourselves, when we are willing to let God work through our insufficiency, God can work and show His greatness.1

Ruth cited the apostle Peter as an example. After denying Jesus three times, Peter plunged into deep remorse and depression.  No doubt concluding that he could no longer be useful to Jesus, Peter returned to his fishing career. But Jesus had different plans for him. Over a breakfast on the beach with several other disciples, Jesus confronted Peter over his failure (recorded in John 21). Ruth described the scene: three times Jesus asked him, “Do you love me with a Godlike love?” Each time Peter humbly responded, “I love You like a brother; I have affection for You.” Peter knew he had demonstrated cowardice and inability to love Jesus with Godlike love; he could no longer boast that he would die with Him. Peter was now broken, repentant, and surrendered. He realized his limitations and how desperately he needed God.2

“Jesus makes that kind of awareness a qualification for leadership,” Ruth wrote. “Peter was going to have to take care of sinful, broken people who had failed and made mistakes.”3 The same applies to us—we can either stay in regret, allowing our mistakes, sins, and wounds to define us, or we can move beyond them to let God define us.4

Ruth further noted that Jesus used the disciples to meet the needs of others, such as the miraculous feeding of thousands with only a little bread and fish. Nothing that we put in Jesus’ hands is too small for Him to use. He looks for ways to include us in His work. “Inclusion is His affirmation.”5  What a loving, gracious God!

Jesus said, “Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Mark 14:38 Satan will tempt us to compare ourselves to others. Such comparisons can lead to discontent. Or we can become grieved or overwhelmed by bad circumstances beyond our control and feel sorry for ourselves. Both conditions diminish our usefulness to God.

One of my favorite promises from God is Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” (New King James Version) The Amplified translation expands on this promise: “You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You and hopes confidently in You.”  There’s the bottom line—are we totally committed to God, leaning on and trusting Him for guidance and strength as we look toward a questionable future?

*Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the New Living Translation.
1 Ruth Graham, Fear Not Tomorrow, God Is Already There (New York: Howard Books, 2009), 76.
2 Ibid, p. 190.
3 Ibid, p. 191.
4 Ibid, p. 181.
5 Ibid., p. 207.

 

Featured Image:

Napping on Bench via Flickr.com License


			
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A Nation of Joy and Boldness

by C. Harmon

 
Our nation is hurting. Like an American flag badly frayed and torn by the wind, the threads of morality, integrity, and dependence upon God that built this nation have been ripped to shreds. We Americans, including many of us who claim to be born-again Christians, have become complacent, compromised with sin, and self-focused.

We could create a convincing list of things amiss and contemptible in the US today.  For example, what was once considered intolerable is now pushed on the public as condoned and acceptable; judges are allowed to overturn the declared will of the people; and many of our government leaders and agencies over-reach their given authority.

What can God-fearing Americans do to restore this nation? Let’s consider the actions of one of the Jewish kings and some common people who turned many back to God.

Second Chronicles chapters 29, 30, and 31 relate the positive influence of a young king who didn’t follow the example of his father. King Ahaz of Judah refused to trust and seek guidance from God; instead, he worshiped false gods and influenced all of the people to do the same. In contrast, when his son, Hezekiah, became king at the age of 25, he immediately began purifying the Temple, getting rid of idols, and urging the people to return to God and bring their tithes to God’s house.

With the Temple cleansed, King Hezekiah then invited all Israelites to come to the Temple at Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  His invitation was to all of Judah and even further — to those remaining in the northern kingdom of Israel who had not been carried away by Assyria. Most of the remnant to the north scorned King Hezekiah’s invitation and continued to reject God. But the people in the land of Judah, the southern kingdom, chose to obey the Lord and travel to Jerusalem for the Passover festival.

Unfortunately, not all the priests and Levites in Judah made that same commitment. It was the common people who set to work in Jerusalem removing all the pagan and incense altars, throwing them away. And because there were not enough re-dedicated priests and Levites to do their job, the common people also slaughtered the Passover lamb. This shamed and humbled many of the priests and Levites to the point of repenting, purifying themselves before the Lord, and taking their places at the Temple as prescribed by the Law of Moses. With King Hezekiah, the people joyously celebrated the Festival. Second Chronicles 30:26 says, “There was great joy in the city, for Jerusalem had not seen a celebration like this one since the days of Solomon, King David’s son,” 255 years earlier.

Following the celebration, King Hezekiah required the people of Jerusalem to bring a portion of their goods to the priests and Levites, so they could devote themselves fully to the work prescribed to them by the Lord. The people responded immediately and generously, bringing the first of their crops, new wine, olive oil, honey, cattle, sheep, and goats — a tithe of all they produced. And the people continued faithfully to bring their tithes to the Temple. The high priest reported to King Hezekiah that all the priests and Levites had plenty to eat, with some to spare. The King thanked the Lord and his people.

What can we apply from this exemplary story of God’s people to our nation today?

To begin, we can note that God was true to His word, blessing the nation who returned to Him and punishing the one that continued to rebel against Him (Deuteronomy 8:19, 20). It is not too late for the United States to return to God, the One who made it a great nation. We can follow the example of the great prophet Daniel by humbling ourselves on behalf of our nation, admitting that “. . . we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations” (Daniel 9:5). Let’s ask God to show us any sin in our personal life, then confess and turn from it.

In John 14:15 Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” Two of Jesus’ commandments include:  “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me” (John 15:4);  “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too” (Mark 11:25). Are we guilty of disobeying either of these or other commands? As we repent of our sin, let’s pray that people throughout this land will confess and turn from their sin, as well.

We can pray for God’s mercy, claiming His promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land”.  Franklin Graham, President and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, is touring the country, stopping at every state capitol during 2016. At these gatherings, he is imploring citizens to confess their sins as a nation and passionately, urgently intercede in prayer for God’s mercy and spiritual renewal. Thousands are attending each capitol rally; scores of people are catching the vision and the need for unified prayer. Read about these rallies and find the tour schedule online at decisionamericatour.com.

Revivals have started through such prayers. For example, the 1857 Fulton Street revival in New York began with noontime prayer meetings that spread across the nation. Currently, small groups are gathering throughout Chicago to pray for their city. “PRAY Chicago” recognizes the need for God to heal a broken society. As we pray for our nation, let us watch to see what God is doing, expecting the Holy Spirit to move in people’s hearts.

We can serve as a piece of the solution. Mr. Graham is urging us to become part of the needed change: vote for those who support Biblical principles; stand up for our religious liberties by getting involved in local matters and perhaps running for a political office; attend regular prayer meetings or start one. People may mock us when we promote spiritual renewal. But God calls us as Christians to live out our faith with boldness. Like Hezekiah and the people of Judah, let’s stand strong in our faith and serve as positive examples and witnesses of the abundant, joyful life available through Jesus Christ.

In addition, we need to help support our local church and Christian organizations through our faithful tithes and offerings, as well as our volunteer time. All pastors’ funding should come from their church so they can dedicate themselves fully to their ministry.

It’s easy to complain about our government and to decry the moral decay of the country. But if we really care about the future of this nation, we will pray for it regularly and earnestly; we will publicly stand up for Biblical principles. Let’s not be part of the problem but part of the positive change. Pray. Now.

Featured Image:

American Flag via All-Free-Download License


 

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From Old To New

by C. Harmon

 

Springtime. A time of renewal, of forgetting old, dead blossoms and focusing on the growth of new, brightly adorned flowers. Sometimes these flowers become bruised or battered by animals, people, or weather. Similarly, as children grow into adulthood, they may carry scars from their childhood that make it difficult to become the people God designed them to be. Following are the true stories of two men (their names changed) who struggled to move beyond the effects of their past and forge better lives for themselves.

Brett was a born-again, battered believer. Verbal and physical abuse from his father had left Brett with a quick temper and low self-image. After a decade of living on his own, he had not established himself in a career and was barely paying his bills.

Brett’s life took a positive turn when he married a kind woman who supported the two of them while he worked toward a college degree. Others became aware of his gifts in exhortation and oratory. In a few of his college classes he polarized the students by arguing with the professor against his beliefs. Early in his senior year, Brett became convinced that God wanted him to become an evangelist. His pastor recognized his talent and mentored him in developing preaching skills.

A few months later, Brett started classes at a leading seminary, trying to prove to his father and himself that he could make something of his life. However, he didn’t know how to deal with the negative effects of his father’s abuse. Despite his wife’s urgings, Brett would not seek counsel. His bitterness and hot temper continued.

During his second year of seminary, Brett took his eyes off the Lord and onto the weaknesses of others. He decided that the professors and the pastor of his church were hypocrites. Without the steadying hand of a mentor, in disgust and disillusionment he quit seminary and the church. Sadly, he never returned to a place of worship, nor did he find his niche in a career. Nearly twenty years later, angry with God and himself, Brett died of heart failure.

Jeff also experienced abuse from his father. Jeff grew up in a large family with few financial resources. At age 12, he excelled in school and daily delivered newspapers to residences and businesses. One day he came home disheveled and dirty from handling newspapers but with a fistful of coins and bills from his sales. He proudly held out his cash love offering to his father to help with family expenses. But Jeff’s father saw only the ink-stained hands and grubby appearance. He didn’t recognize the worth and sacrifice of his son. Without warning, he slapped the money across the room and stormed off!

Bruised in spirit and body, Jeff retreated in silence. In the following weeks, months, and years, resentment toward his father entrenched itself in Jeff’s heart. Unlike Brett, however, Jeff eventually talked out his hurt and bitterness with his wife and sister, gradually yielding to the Holy Spirit’s work in his life. A supernatural peace, love, and forgiveness replaced his bitterness. Jeff approached his father with a visibly changed attitude. New softness came across as Jeff said, “Dad, I’m sorry for my coldness toward you all these years. I’ve been angry and hurt over the harsh way you treated me long ago. Please forgive me. I love you and forgive you.”  Tears streamed down his father’s face, and he chokingly replied, “I love you too, son, and I’m so sorry for the many times I hurt you.” The two men embraced in a bear hug, starting a new relationship between them that lasted the rest of their lives.

Perhaps we cannot relate to either of these men, but is there something holding us back from becoming the disciples God designed us to be? John 10:10 quotes Jesus saying, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10) Instead of experiencing an abundant life in Christ, are we currently buffeted by Satan’s attempt to destroy us and our effectiveness for God? Do past hurts, shame, or bitterness still haunt us? Have we been knocked down by a major financial set-back, a serious illness or injury, an addiction, a devastating marital or family conflict, or some other difficulty that has left us disheartened and questioning God’s Word?

Most of us probably know that first and foremost we need to turn to Jesus and His Word. Unfortunately, we sometimes run the other way, trying to fix the situation by ourselves. We might let depression get the best of us, isolating ourselves and laying aside our Bible and prayers. But these choices don’t solve our problems.

Oh, the sweet release awaiting us when we get away to a quiet place, a comfortable spot free of distractions, where we can ask God what He wants us to learn through our difficulties. It is there we can immerse ourselves in Bible study and prayer, and we can pour out our hearts to Him. It is vital to then wait in expectant silence for Jesus to speak to us—perhaps through a verse of Scripture, perhaps in a growing conviction of the next step He wants us to take. If no answer comes at that time, we can choose to wait in faith for His guidance.

If we cannot leave that quiet place with peace, perhaps we are holding on to our worry, discouragement, unforgiveness, or some other disobedience. Maybe we didn’t spend sufficient time with Him, or possibly we aren’t really willing to do whatever He wants us to do.

Now and then we need help from a fellow Jesus-follower. God didn’t design us to go it alone but to live in fellowship with one another and to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). It can be humbling to ask for help, but we need to be humble. Another believer can help us see things from a different perspective and can aid us in problem-solving, looking at several alternatives, and choosing the next step in accordance with the Bible’s directives.

If it is an addiction or bad habit that has us in its grip, we can take fresh hope from (Romans 8:2)—“And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” When Satan whispers that we are going to yield to that temptation or habit again, we can respond with, “No, I’m done with that!” A new behavior can replace the old one.

(2 Corinthians 5:17) says, “Therefore if any person is (ingrafted) in Christ, the Messiah, he is (a new creature altogether,) a new creation; the old (previous moral and spiritual condition) has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!” This is not just a one-time event at salvation; we must mature in our walk with Jesus, let go of the past, embrace changes, and obey new guidance from Him. We can take heart that trials taken with the right attitude will produce perseverance and endurance in our spiritual journey (James 1:2, 3).

Now is the time to focus on Jesus and discover the newness He wants to produce in our lives this season. Let’s move forward in His work with a renewed mind, fresh perspective, and revived faith.

Suggested reading and study:

Getting Past What You’ll Never Get Over, by John F. Westfall, Senior Pastor of Harbor Church in Seattle, Washington.

Healed and Set Free from Past Hurts, a 9-week Bible study and workbook, by Tammy Brown, wife of Pastor Rick Brown, Watersprings Church, Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Featured Image:

An Alone Flower via PhotoPin License


 

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Joy Despite Our Circumstances

by C. Harmon

The crowd wept in repentance after realizing their disobedience to God’s commands. “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this,” declared both Nehemiah the governor and Ezra the priest, “for today is a sacred day before the LORD your God.” (Neh 8:9).

Nehemiah was one of many Jews who had been exiled from Israel and eventually allowed to return to Jerusalem. He had the honor and responsibility of supervising the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s demolished walls, governing the Israeli returnees, and bringing a spiritual awakening among them. Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Neh 8:10).

That was many hundreds of years ago. Today we continue the feasting tradition with church potlucks, gladly sharing our food with those who have nothing prepared. And we, too, need to be reminded to rejoice in the Lord despite hard times, disappointment, or regrets.

In Margaret Jensen’s book, Lena, the author was mourning over her prodigal son, Ralph. It was the 1970s, and Ralph had gone the way of the hippie movement, embracing that lifestyle of letting his hair grow long, using harmful drugs, and rebelling against society. Margaret’s beautiful black friend, Lena, prodded her with, “Now I asks you, where is your joy?”

“But Lena, I want my son saved!” Margaret replied.

“Your joy got nothin’ to do with what you wants,” Lena shot back.  “Your joy am Jesus, child! You got Him, you got peace. You got Him, you got it all! Ralph not your business. He is God’s business. Now I ask you, did the prodigal son’s father call in the FBI or the police? No. He trusted God, and he waited. Now, Sister Jensen, you must unclog the channel. You get the long hair, bare feet, drugs, and that mess out that channel so you can see God. God’s getting tired of hearing how bad the boy looks. He’s lookin’ in the heart. Now today we get the joy! . . . We begins to praise the
Lord till the joy comes.”

For two hours Lena marched Margaret around as they sang praise hymns and kneeled in prayers. She urged Margaret to just see Jesus, not the problem. “Let the joy of the Lord be your strength,” she insisted. Margaret got it—she chose the joy of the Lord!  Later, she wrote in her diary, “I won’t be any happier the day Ralph comes home than I am today receiving the answer in my spirit, by my faith.” ?

1 Thessalonians 5:18 commands, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” We will find peace and greater blessing if we thank God for allowing only circumstances we can handle in His strength, praising Him for His constant presence, comfort, and help. In faith, we can claim Romans 8:28, praising God that He is working all things together for our good, as long as we show our love for Him. How do we show our love? Jesus said it is by obeying His commands (John 14:15, 23).

We may be tempted to ask God why He is allowing us to go through this very difficult situation or heartache. Perhaps a better question would be, “What do you want me to learn from this, God?” or, “What changes do You want me to make as a result of this horrible experience?”

From real-life current stories of people around the world who are being persecuted for their faith, we find many who still praise God and find their courage in their personal relationship with Him. For example, Voice of the Martyrs reported in their monthly newsletter of August, 2015, that a 13-year-old Nigerian boy named Danjuma
was brutally attacked by Islamic terrorists in January, 2015. He remembers the pain caused by a machete slicing through the left side of his head. Thankfully, he doesn’t remember his left arm being hacked by the machete, nor the other assaults. Remarkably, though he lost a lot of blood, he survived, and even more amazing is his forgiveness for the attackers.

“I forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing,” Danjuma said. And while the attackers injured him severely, they couldn’t take his joy; it is evident in his smile and his voice. “The joy comes from the Lord,” he said. He asks that believers who hear his story will pray that his faith will continue to grow.

Danjuma and Margaret Jensen chose joy in God despite their circumstances.

Can we do the same?

Will we?


 

Categories: Day Six Comments: 0

Pastoral Care and Counseling

Bob Newhart’s Version

They don’t teach this method at Seminary – at least not that I ever encountered. I’m reading the book of Nehemiah every week for seven or eight weeks while I preach through it at my church. It’s been pretty interesting to read the story of the exiled community returning to find their city in ruins and then dropping everything to rebuild the walls. We’re doing Chapter 5 tomorrow, it’s the story of when some of the leaders of the community were taking unfair advantage of those who were vulnerable. Nehemiah proposes a radical solution to solve the problem: stop it. Funny thing was that it worked.

I don’t think I’m that great at pastoral counselling. I don’t really have a method. I listen. I pray. And I try to tell the good news to people. I don’t know if it helps. But I have been the beneficiary of some great pastoral care over the years – mostly from friends of mine who are pastors. Usually the very best care I get sounds a lot like Nehemiah and Bob Newhart. It’s a real gift when someone who loves me will call me on my crap and tell me to stop it.

If you are struggling with an addiction or a disease like alcoholism, ptsd or a diagnosed issue – this is terrible advice. Don’t watch this video and know that you are loved. If you are struggling with something pedestrian but powerful there is some value to this advice. What has you stuck in a rut? What’s causing you trouble in your life? What silliness do you return to day after day that you know isn’t good for you? What’s killing your relationships and robbing you of joy? What is hindering your involvement in the mission of God?

Here’s a little classic MadTV… Bob Newhart at his best, to offer you some advice.

 
Categories: I Choose To Preach Comments: 0

Pastor, Abandon Not The Flock

The stillness of the night is shattered by the howl of a hungry wolf, making the wool of the sheep stand on end in terror like an electric shock just ran through it. Those little sheep really have nothing to fear as long as their brave and strong shepherd stands watching, ready to defend his sheep with his very life. The shepherd, who is a stalwart specimen of manhood, eyes the darkness to see from which way the wolf might come and then picks up his staff to … run the other direction?! Hey, wait … where’s … where’s the shepherd going? What about your sheep?!

That man by anybody’s standard would be a bad shepherd. He might feed the sheep, water the sheep, and interact with the sheep, but to abandon the sheep in their greatest moment of need nullifies the good he had done.

Jesus seemed to think so, as well, as He figuratively spoke of Himself as a shepherd and of people as sheep. He called Himself the Good Shepherd and defined that label as a shepherd who cares so much for the sheep that he puts his life on the line for them instead of running away (John 10:11-13).

Undoubtedly, Jesus is the Good Shepherd and will one day personally shepherd His flock when He returns, but for the meantime, He has placed men over His flock who are supposed to be good shepherds, as well. These “pastors,” a word derived from the Latin word for “shepherd,” are ultimately measured by Jesus’ definition of a good shepherd.

But before you jump up and run away into the night for safety and ease, consider:

1. Your leaving should only be by the permission of God.

Paul told the Ephesian elders to “be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood,” (Acts 20:28). You have been called and placed by God where you are. Since this is true, it’s not up to you when to leave. He called you go there, and He will call you to leave there. Until then, stand and persevere against the wolf!

2. Your leaving very well may cause you to miss something glorious that God is doing.

The 16th-century Reformers rallied around the slogan “after darkness, light.” Scripture and history prove that saying to be wise. It’s often the darkest of hours that precede glorious days of light. Stay put and rest in the sovereignty of God who “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose,” (Romans 8:28). Light is coming!

3. Your leaving could erode the trust of the sheep for the next shepherd.

In a field, when you leave the sheep to the wolf, he likely will get a few of them, but those that remain will still be vulnerable even after they have a new shepherd because they won’t trust him. They’ll expect him to run when the wolf comes, leaving that next pastor an uphill climb to gain the trust of the sheep, which will cause ministry to be greatly hindered. Step back, and look at the long-term, big picture. What effect will your leaving the sheep to the wolf have on the church for years to come?

4. Your leaving might say something about your pastoral motivation.

Jesus says that hirelings run away when the wolf appears (John 10:12). They are shepherding primarily for selfish reasons — what they can get out of it — and when the wolf shows up, a quick cost-benefit calculation leads the hireling to decide that the sheep and the benefits aren’t worth the trouble of dealing with the wolf. “They don’t pay me enough to mess with that!” the hireling says. In contrast, Jesus wasn’t concerned about what He was getting, but whom He was serving. In fact, Jesus came not to be served but to be serve (Mark 10:45), and that caused Him to be willing to face the wolf even if it meant death. He was that concerned for the sheep! Is that same mentality in you? Ask yourself why you are pastoring and why you are thinking about leaving your flock. What motivation surfaces? Is it Christ-like?

5. Your leaving might be based on what you can do instead of what God can do.

We look at situations and say in our flesh, “it’s hopeless,” but is that declaration ever true in light of the God of the Bible? No way! We who walk by faith and not by sight say with Jeremiah, “Ah, Sovereign LORD, … nothing is too hard for You!” (Jeremiah 32:17). We often run away because we think that the wolf is too much for us, the whole time being right but forgetting that God will face the wolf with us. Alone, the wolf wins, but with God, the wolf loses. Don’t base your decision to leave upon what you can do. Keep in mind what God, the one with whom all things are possible (Matthew 19:26), can do.

Brother Pastor, when the wolf howls outside the sheepfold, abandon not the flock. May you stand firm against him and endure for the sake of the sheep and the glory of Christ, the Chief Shepherd!

Categories: Sound Familiar? Comments: 2

When Your Husband Quits

This post is designed to help give insight to the wives of male pastors who have burned-out or have been terminated. We do understand and support the many ministry leaders including pastors who are female, but this is written from a male point of view because that is my personal experience.

What will we do now?When your husband announces to the family he is totally burned-out and plans on resigning next Sunday, you and the children are thrown into a life change that has great stress and uncertainty. Even if you were expecting him to make such a decision based on all your conversations over the past many months, the finalization of the decision still has strong emotional repercussions.

What will we do now? How long until he has a new job? Will I have to work two jobs to support the family? Are we staying in the same denomination? Why are our friends not calling us anymore? Why have our pastor friends in the same denomination abandoned us? How long will this whole trial last? A year? Five years? Forever? When will I have my husband back? The zealous man I married who wanted to save the world for Jesus – now he seems a different person who is disillusioned and sometimes very cynical. Will our family ever be back to normal?

How will this impact our children? Will they give up Christianity when they realize how the church and pastor friends have treated us? Will we even have good friends again we can trust and share with?

Never stop looking to God, and place all your trust in Him. Try to understand what is happening to your husband, and give as much support and encouragement as you can. Please refrain from criticism, your husband has had all he can handle. To not support him is to further isolate him, and that is a very strong feeling that is flooding his life right now. To join the ranks of his critics will probably lead to the end of your marriage faster than you may think. Your husband is in the crisis of his life.

Being a male, your husband may have allowed his position and title to become much more than Jesus ever had in mind. Position and title and all the trappings may have become his entire life, and now, he finds himself with no identity. No longer are people seeking him out for his wisdom and counsel. No longer is he in charge of a staff that works with him and gives him the feedback he wants. No longer are his teaching gifts being used. No longer is he Pastor Joe, Reverend Smith or Mr. Smith. Now he is simply unemployed Joe, or, “hey-you.”

Your husband may become a yo-yo emotionally. One day is up, positive and still enthusiastically teaching the family Bible study that evening around the kitchen table. The next day his heart may be filled with bitterness and rage against denominational leaders or church members. One minute he is praying forgiveness over all who have hurt him, the next moment his is ranting and raving about the stupid Christians who abuse people so badly. Perhaps the next day he will be sullen and introspective as he ponders all the mistakes he made and the people he hurt along the road. The desert he is walking in now will change him and draw him closer to the Jesus he moved away from when his calling and position became what your husband anchored his life to. For you, this process will not be easy. You will be there trying to give support, and his moods will swing back and forth like the desert breeze. Through it all, ladies, remember the desert is a good place. It may be a lonely, dry, thirsty place, but a good place. God has taken many a ministry leader including his own son, Jesus, out in the desert to prepare them for the next phase of ministry.

Man Staring out WindowGive your husband time, just as God was patient with Elijah wandering in the desert, moaning and groaning about how he was the only worshiper left in Israel. By the way, ladies, don’t expect your husband to be totally rational at this point. Burnout can create irrational reasoning. Elijah claimed he wanted to die, and if he really meant that, he should have just stayed put and let Jezebel do her thing!

Ladies, for a while don’t take your husband’s exaggerations and irrational statements too seriously. He is working through a lot of abuse and feelings of failure right now. If he starts talking suicide, take that very seriously and seek help immediately. But in other areas of irrational talk, just listen and let the healing love of Father flow out of you and ever so s-lo-w-l-y begin to heal your husband. Should his irrational reasoning grow to greater proportions and wilder in nature, then indeed you need to seek help for him immediately.

In another area of life your husband may become depressed over his lack of avenue of expression of his speaking, teaching, counseling gifts. He may become frustrated attending church and listening to another preach a sermon. Just walking in and sitting down to listen is something your husband has done little of. He’s been the mover and the shaker, not the quiet follower.

Here are a few aspects to watch for regarding the difference between stress and burnout in your husband. If your husband is still overengaged, he is at the high stress point. He may have just been terminated by the denomination, but if he is talking about immediately doing a church plant, or packing up the family and heading to Asia for a two year mission trip – he’s not burned-out yet – just stressed. Burnout is characterized by disengagement.

Having a better idea of where your husband is at mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically will help you serve him in a more effective manner. When he gets into those emotional swings and rants and raves a little – he’s stressed. If his emotions have become blunted, almost non-existent – he’s burned-out. Magnet ManIf his physical health is not so great, that is the result of stress. In burnout, emotional damage is primary. When he has lost his ideals, dreams and hopes – he is burned-out. Stress alone will rob him of energy, but the loss of his ideals and dreams is most definitely burnout.

We urge you, ladies, to seek the help you need to cope with your husband, and to cope with what is happening to you and the family. Seek counseling for yourself. There are providers who offer love and encouragement free of charge. Call or write and let us be part of your prayer cover as you walk through the desert. We are here to serve you, and we do know how you feel. God bless you and stay godly no matter how long you have to sit in the bottom of the dry well.

Categories: Battling Brides Comments: 0

Rookie Pastors

Keep the Devil Out of the Details

Bible college and seminary are great for a lot of things. In my experience, important skills you need to survive in an office such as yearly budgets, business plans, and understanding a housing allowance, are not some of those things. I love the education I received, but I am embarrassingly lost every spring when I try to do my taxes. For rookie pastors, or for those who start a pastoral position at a new church, someone on staff will approach you within your first 30 days and start talking about things that affect your paycheck and how many days you get off for the year.

It will be tempting to not ask questions because you are intimidated or because of some silly pride that prevents leaders from asking questions. You can go that route and miss out on some deserved benefits. Or you can ask some honest questions and get clarity.
rookiepastor

I can’t say that I understand it all, but I understand enough to know what I should leave to professionals and what I really need to pay attention to. However, the best time to ask questions about your taxes, for instance, is in those first 30 days—and not on April 12. This is true with questions regarding Social Security and payroll withholdings. It’s also true for a housing allowance the church board approved for you.

In general, churches are also really bad about clarifying time off. Maybe it makes you uncomfortable to have conversations about the difference between a sick day and a day off. Is a day away for a conference or a mission trip considered a vacation day? It may not seem like a big deal now, but when you are burnt out after a crazy stretch, and you need a day to sit in front of the TV and drool, you will be thankful you have some clarity.

Taking the time in those first 30 days to get clarity on all of these matters related to pay and benefits will make a measurable difference for you, not to mention make life easier for the staff who handle these details.

Editor’s Note: For more help on questions related to Social Security withholdings, housing allowances, and other benefits, check out the 2012 Church & Clergy Tax Guide.

 
 
Categories: Doing Church Comments: 0